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Environ Microbiol. 1999 Oct;1(5):447-55.

The formation of migratory ripples in a mixed species bacterial biofilm growing in turbulent flow.

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Exeter University, School of Biology, Hatherly Laboratories, UK.


Mixed-species biofilms, consisting of Klebsiella pneumoniae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Pseudomonas fluorescens and Stenotrophomonas maltophilia, were grown in glass flow cells under either laminar or turbulent flow. The biofilms grown in laminar flow consisted of roughly circular-shaped microcolonies separated by water channels. In contrast, biofilm microcolonies grown in turbulent flow were elongated in the downstream direction, forming filamentous 'streamers'. Moreover, biofilms growing in turbulent flow developed extensive patches of ripple-like structures between 9 and 13 days of growth. Using time-lapse microscopic imaging, we discovered that the biofilm ripples migrated downstream. The morphology and the migration velocity of the ripples varied with short-term changes in the bulk liquid flow velocity. The ripples had a maximum migration velocity of 800 micromh(-1) (2.2 x 10(-7) m s(-1)) when the liquid flow velocity was 0.5 ms(-1) (Reynolds number=1,800). This work challenges the commonly held assumption that biofilm structures remain at the same location on a surface until they eventually detach.

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